Small Blessings Count

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Another Thanksgiving season has arrived and as I reflect on this year so far, I have to admit, it’s been a rough year for both family members and close friends. Too many accidents, too many illnesses, too many days filled with anxiety and frustration. Yet, as I did a mental review of months past, I realized the list of blessings is far longer than the list of negatives, which frankly surprised me. It dawned on me that the amount of time we spend celebrating a blessing is often so much shorter than the quantity of time and energy we give to dwelling on a difficulty. Is this where attitude seeps in and pushes gratitude down into the recesses of our conciseness? Can this “habit” or tendency be reversed? Yes. Definitely.

Recently, I found a new power tool that helps remind me of that goal – a white dry eraser board. In the past, I had notebooks that I wrote weekly tasks and goals in and tucked into a drawer. But more often than not, I’d forget to write in it for a few days or to check my lists until finally I’d get so far behind, I’d toss it. I’m a visual person, so that old saw “Out of sight, out of mind,” really applies to me. My eraser board is right on my wall, next to the light switch and I walk by it dozens of times each day. Every Sunday evening, I write down what I need to do the coming week, where I have to go, who I need to call, and when and why an item needs to be finished. It’s my who, what, where, when, why whiteboard that brings a modicum of organization to my sometimes chaotic life. Plus, as I mark off each item, I give myself an imaginary pat on the back for having accomplished that task, and that gives me the momentum to tackle the next item on my little board.

So as I am reflecting on all the big things I am thankful for like family, friends (human and canine), and the joys of living in this wondrous land called Montana, I want also to be appreciative of the smaller blessings in my life. The last bloom in the flowerbox for example, or the wild turkeys watching me through the kitchen window, and even the little white board that shows me what I’ve done so far this week, and makes me ask, “Now, what’s next?”

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and thanks for stopping by.

Deborah

by Deborah Epperson

Website: http://www.deborahepperson.com

Breaking TWIG: http://www.amazon.com/Breaking-TWIG-ebook/dp/B005OUJGNS/

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On Gratitude

On Gratitude

palmquistBy Anne B. Howard

How fragrant the dough! How nimble the old fingers that worked it. Soon we would have fresh bread spread thick with home-churned butter, dripping with honey. Or taste summer’s sweetness baked into mulberry pie, and refill the elephant cookie jar—one ear chipped—with orange frosted carrot-cookies, or a batch of the rich dark caramel-corn.

Breathless with anticipation, I scrutinized each measure and stir from my private perch atop her old steamer trunk, next to the window. The same spot where in springtime, I spied the first blossoms of tulip and daffodil, and in winter, marveled at intricate kaleidoscopes of crystal frost—peering through at five foot drifts, long pointed icicles drip, drip, dripping,  and diamond glints of sun on snow.

Her lap was soft and warm; I was happy there. This beloved Mama Judy of my childhood—apron-top pinned to her raggedy dress. She called me ‘doll,’ gave me a puppy, taught me to play dominoes, and how it feels to be loved unconditionally. We had no hot water, indoor toilet, or television set in this tiny two-room house, but “it don’t bother,” she said, “because we got a good stove, a lot a’ love, and two good legs to get out to the shed.”

Pa was a colorful old coot—fur-trader, hunter, and champion cat-fisherman by profession. He smoked unfiltered cigarettes, drank coffee from a saucer, cursed like a fool and lovingly called Mama Judy “woman.” From my earliest memory and, “no biggern’ a grasshopper,” he’d say about my size, I stood beside him in that smelly dark shed, looking up—pot-bellied coal stove glowing red in winter—mesmerized, transfixed, and without the slightest comprehension of what I observed as he harvested pelts from beaver, raccoon, muskrat, and fox. All I knew was that I loved the old man…dirt under his fingernails, hair parted down the middle, dressed in worn-out overalls over long-johns and a tattered flannel shirt, singing, “a-ridin’ ole Paint and a-leadin’ ole Dan….”

Owning little, he gave me everything. Rides in his beat-up forties’ red Chevy truck, with the ‘coon-dog box in the bed and holes in the floorboard, so I could see the ground as we rolled along. A baby raccoon in a box, fresh clover to feed my bunnies, and a tire swing. He took me to the Sale Barn on Saturdays. Every day of my young life, until he was too sick with cancer to leave the house, he handed me a nickel to buy my own Hershey bar or a bottle of NeHi, grape or orange. Mama Judy said his last words were, “Where’s my girl?”

MamaJudyPaBeckyThrough the worst of times and the best, these precious memories have sustained and comforted, empowered and enlightened me. I loved them so, My Pa and Mama Judy. Watching her cook, from that old blanket-covered trunk by the window—crispy fried rabbit, catfish, frog-legs, side-pork and turtle pancakes, hot possum-pie. If Pa brought it home, she made it delicious. I loved curling up in the big iron bed on hot summer nights…lulled off to sleep by the mind-numbing trill of locusts, or the mournful whine of trains passing in the night, three blocks away. I felt cocooned and safe there. Cherished. Always forgiven. Good enough.

Today, Mama Judy and Pa still live in that tiny house at the north end of town, if only in my memory. She’s cutting fresh bread, he’s sipping coffee from a saucer. Hired to babysit when I was but four weeks old, I like to say that they saved me.

At the very least, this loving old couple made a powerful and lasting generational impact on the life of one thankful little girl. How appropriate  that Mama Judy’s birthday—November twenty second—always falls close to the official day we call Thanksgiving. And so today, some sixty years later, I remember… and say thanks. Her lovely garden of tulip and daffodil, peony, bachelor button and hollyhock blooms forever…in my heart.

‘Tis the Season for Eating

By Leslie Budewitz

Since Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries debuted in August, I’ve been hearing from readers. And one common refrain? “This book made me hungry!” Like me, my characters tend to obsess about food. The series is set in the lakeside village of Jewel Bay, Montana-where good food and murder cook side by side. Erin Murphy manages Glacier Mercantile, known as The Merc, selling Montana-made foods and products. If it’s made in Montana, it must be good!

And like me, Erin loves easy, flavorful food. These muffins are perfect for Thanksgiving morning, when you’re too busy with the turkey and its friends to cook breakfast, or for those post-holiday mornings with a houseful of guests. Make ahead if you’d like-they freeze beautifully!

CRANBERRY PUMPKIN NUT MUFFINS aka CHRISTMAS MUFFINS

2 cups. all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1-1/4 cup canned pumpkin
½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 cups cranberries (fresh, coarsely chopped, or dried, aka craisins)

NOTE: I love using craisins. If you use fresh cranberries, you may need to increase the amount of sugar just a bit.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, spices, and sugar. In a small bowl, mix oil, eggs, and pumpkin. Add to flour mixture and combine into a thick batter. Mix by hand; the batter is so thick that it tends to clog an electric mixer. Fold in walnuts and cranberries.

Spray muffin tins with oil. Spoon batter into tins, about 3/4 full. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a knife or tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Muffins will be soft. Cool slightly before removing.

Makes about 24. These muffins freeze well—so you can nosh on one while reading your favorite fiction!

Death al Dente Leslie Budewitz is the author of Death al Dente, a national bestseller. The second installment in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Crime Rib, will be published in July 2014 — just in time for grilling season!

Catitude By Christine Schimpff-Carbo

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With the holidays around the corner and our women writers group throwing the theme attitude vs. gratitude out there, I was thinking my cat deserved a little gratitude from me. I know I sound silly, but truly, I am grateful to him because he teaches me catitude, reminding me that there is pleasure in being sweet and grateful, but there is also a deeper pleasure in not always giving of yourself, not always saying yes, not always jumping when someone calls.

My cat comes to me on his terms, snuggly and purring. But, if I pick him up and put him on my lap, it’s no good. He hops up and leaves, often returning, but on his terms. Sometimes if I call him to come and he doesn’t feel like it, he’ll stare at me from across the room with that look that says, “who do you think I am – a dog?”

Now, I’m not suggesting we all become narcissists, but there are things to learn from cats:

  1. Know when to say no when it just doesn’t work for you. Life will be much more enjoyable and it will free up time for what you really want to do.
  2. Understand when to be sweet and thankful for the wonderful things and people that you’re blessed with, but know when you deserve something too and don’t feel guilty for being on the receiving end.
  3. Realize when to stick up for yourself, when to stick out those claws and say enough is enough, rather than bottling anger up. Shoving emotion down can make you sick.
  4. Know when to play, when to chase that string around and have fun while doing it. Allow yourself to live in the moment.
  5. Allow yourself to be stubborn and bullheaded. There are things too precious to just give up on because someone else or maybe even your own self says you should.

This fall I’ve been fortunate enough to land a book deal with Atria Books with Simon and Schuster for a mystery. I’m thrilled, grateful and appreciative to a whole host of people in my life for having this opportunity. But, I know one thing for sure, without having a little catitude, knowing when to say no, knowing when I really do deserve something, knowing when to stick up for myself, knowing when to play and knowing when to be stubborn and bullheaded, especially about my writing, I would not have gotten this far. Some of these lessons have taken a very long time to learn and some I have yet to master. As simple as they sound, they can be really difficult for some of us.

So, Happy Thanksgiving and don’t forget to add a little catitude every now and again!

 

The Pinkum Crickers

By Marie F Martin

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The following are a couple excerpts from the Pinkum Crickers, a novel I salvaged from the bottom shelf in the back of my office closet because I was getting nowhere with a novel I am trying to craft.   This is where a feud begins.

The next morning, October 22th, 1982, a gray unfriendly Saturday morning, Frankie Ferrell bypassed going to work at the log landing.  He wanted to supply Uncle Ross with the name of who gave marijuana to the twins, but he hungered for the answer, too.  His brother’s missing hand and for young Willie getting beat black and blue had to be paid for.  Frankie would learn who, and then they’d pay big time.  He’d teach those outsiders not to ever screw with a Ferrell.  Just like, someday he’d show those teachers at the town school a thing or two.  Thinking they’re so smart and calling him slow.  Maybe he didn’t do well with their long words in tiny print, but they didn’t know about the important stuff.  Like how he could take a colt apart, oil it and put it back together in the dark.  Or how his family stuck with him and he stuck with them.  He had dropped out of school and was done with them, but someday he’d show all of them that nobody could whip up on a Ferrell child or spike logs that tear off a hand and get away with it.  His mind stewed and sulked over Willie.  Frankie took a comb from his hip pocket and ran it through his brown hair.  He smoothed the beginnings of his first mustache, gunned the motor of his rattletrap pickup and left for Uncle Sam’s

The next is when the heroine moves into a home deep in the mountains along a creek.

There it was.   Arianne Hollis crossed a small wooden bridge that spanned Pinkum Creek and entered her own driveway with its no trespassing sign.  She worked her pickup through the rutted road.  At last she crossed Tumble Creek into her quiet little meadow.  “Hello little house that is all mine,” she said as she unlocked her cabin door.  Her voice carried in the wooded stillness.  She lowered it to a whisper as she added, “I am here.”    As she carried the last box into the cabin, she paused and listened.  Her scalp and muscles tightened as her mind registered.  That’s rifle fire!  She dropped the box and gazed around.  Another shot rang out followed by two more.  Then silence.  She didn’t hear anything.  No birds or wind or anything.  Her senses keen, her stomach knotted, she waited.  A yellow jacket buzzed near her arm.  She swatted at it and returned to squinting through the glare for any movement in the clearing or trees.  She waited, watching.  Finally, she gave up and carried the box inside.  As she firmly locked the door, the roar of a truck carried across the ridge.

Yes, I am rewriting it and it will be on Amazon something in the late spring or summer.

mariemartin  Marie F Martin